Mail Station

Mail station
Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M
Kodak Panatomic-X (expired)
LegacyPro L110 Dilution B (1+31)

When I was a kid, the mailbox was attached to the house next to the front door. On summer days, when the windows were open, we could hear the mailman open and close its lid as he delivered our letters.

As a young adult with my first house the mailbox was on a post by the curb. I didn’t much enjoy needing boots and a coat to get my mail on winter days.

Now I live in a new subdivision, and all mail is delivered to a locked box in this building. We walk or drive over to it; it’s ¾ mile away. I know this is a first-world problem, but I hate it. I want a mailbox next to my front door again.

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Last updated on 27 October 2020 by Jim Grey

Film Photography

single frame: Mail station

The central mail station in my subdivision, on expired Kodak Panatomic-X.

Image

30 thoughts on “single frame: Mail station

  1. So true! I have to go to the end of the driveway, but at least I don’t have to cross the road like my neighbor across the street. Such a downgrade from just reaching out of the front door.

    At my late mother in law’s house she had the ultimate: a mail slot on the front porch that came through the wall so that the mail dropped into a basket in the living room.

    • At my last house I had to cross the street. But it was a seldom traveled street, so it wasn’t a big deal. Still, I would have preferred a box by my front door.

  2. Oh, I wouldn’t care for that either. It takes some of the interaction out of it – even with a box at the end of my driveway, I can see the mailman come and go if I wish to watch.

    • DougD says:

      We still have a mailbox beside our front door. It’s great 👍
      I’ve not seen a mail station like that before, we just have lock box groups at the curb.

      • Andy Umbo says:

        I not only know my regular mail-person, I tip my regular mail-person at Christmas, and say “Hi” when I see him on the street! He likes this route so much, one of the ‘oldsters’ down the street died and he bought the house from the estate! Before my parents passed, they had the same mail carrier for 25 years! End of an era?

        • Probably. I remember my parents tipping the carrier. I …think I did when I lived in Terre Haute 30 years ago, as I had a box on the house and I said hello to the carrier a time or two.

  3. Andy Umbo says:

    I don’t get this, is this a ‘thing’ now? The apartment I lived in, in the Pike district in Indianapolis, started installing this outside (not in a nice building), on the far end of the project. We had 8 perfectly safe and service-able mail boxes in each building, easily big enough to hold a license plate or a medium sized package, and they were changing it to smaller units, far, far away, and outside in the rain and snow. I moved out before it went ‘live’, and moved to a building in downtown Zionsville that still had a nice brass lobby mail unit.

    The apartments I love living in, in Milwaukee, are the nice old multi-story, multi-unit buildings built in the 1920’s. Brass mail-boxes, beautiful tiled bathrooms, etc. People in Indy told me when I lived there, that these were the type of buildings that existed in the “Old North Side” neighborhood, but not kept up and torn down by the time I got there. Plenty still here, and north side Chicago where I grew up. I don’t see how they would install these in that situation? I do see them building those weird, rambling 100+ units with the drive around streets, in the far western suburbs, and also installing those similar mail units.

    I’d hate that! What happens if some of your mail ends up in a neighbors box? Where do they put it? I know all my neighbors in my individual building now. We’ll take in packages left on the porch for others, I’ll even carry my neighbors packages upstairs in my unit and put it against their door.

    Dag nabbit! I’m ‘agin’ it! Old mail units please!

    • The central mail station certainly discourages this kind of neighborliness. We have gotten mail for our neighbors a time or two. We generally just walk it over there. If they’re not home, we tape it to their door.

  4. Oh dear. I guess you wouldn’t like having to drive in to town to the Post Office to pick up your mail. Takes me about 15 minutes each way, when I bother to. Canada Post stopped rural deliveries a few years ago. In many places there are ‘community mailboxes’ which are drive-up arrays of lock boxes – which frequently get broken into by thieves. Good thing almost nothing comes via post these days.

    • When I was a boy my grandparents had to drive into town to get their mail, in rural southwest Michigan. It was a big deal when they got rural delivery. So I know what you’re talking about. I’m a city boy, born and bred, and my norm is having a mailbox by the front door or even a mail slot in the front door.

  5. tbm3fan says:

    Maybe that is what happens in new developments, I don’t know since new developments in Northern California, where I live, are pretty far away and I am not going to look. Where I am, which is just a 15 minute walk from downtown Concord, the homes are older, smaller, and with one car garages back to the 50s.

    My home is early 90s with a two car garage. All homes have the traditional mail box next to the front door and the same regular mailman a tall lanky fellow. So I can hear him drop the mail in each afternoon if I were home. Your way I wouldn’t like at all and having to deal with that, in your winter, would put me over the edge. Although I would guess the mailman likes it.

    • That’s exactly it – the mailman likes it. Drive up in the truck and deliver an entire neighborhood without having to drive or walk all over it.

      I’ve experienced worse things in my life, obviously. 🙄 But I look forward to moving back into the city and possibly having a mailbox on my house again.

  6. As a British guy on the other side of the pond I confess to having a likely highly incorrect assumption that all American homes have a mailbox at the end of their drive like something out of a Peanuts cartoon. Apparently this is not the case… :)

    The thought did lead me to this blog post – from an American living in the UK – about how British people romanticise American life (and vice-versa). I guess this is due to the fact that, for most people, the experience they have of life in one anothers countries comes mostly from popular culture, which is already romanticised as it is.

    https://notesfromtheuk.com/2017/01/06/u-k-letterboxes-and-u-s-mailboxes/

    • When I lived briefly in Germany in the mid 80s, their romantic notion of Americans is that we all wore cowboy hats like on Dallas.

      Those mailboxes on the post do get used in suburban and rural areas. Except that newer suburbs are being built with these central mail stations. In cities, it’s mostly mailboxes on the house or mail slots in the door or in the wall near the door.

      I’ve always sort of wanted a mail slot in my door — I wouldn’t even have to open the door to get my mail then!

      Another wrinkle: in my hometown, some houses had a milk delivery door. Here’s one, in a house on the street I grew up on. It’s that slightly ajar door next to the window.

      Erskine Boulevard

      Until about 1970, give or take, we had daily milk (and bread) delivery in our neighborhoods. The milkman would open the door and leave the milk inside. There is another door inside the house that accesses this same cubby. This protects the milk from the elements.

      I used to deliver the newspaper in my neighborhood, and some people with milk doors wanted their paper in there to keep it dry.

      That article about mailbox romance was a fun read!

      • Andy Umbo says:

        Made me laugh! When I was a paperboy, about half my route wanted the paper in the milk chute, especially the morning paper. I can’t tell you how many times some “wag” at 5 o’clock in the morning, would shoot their hand out when I opened the door to grab the paper! Kept you on your toes!

        • In those days South Bend (my hometown) had only an afternoon paper, which I delivered right after school. It could arrive on a doorstep as early as 3:30. If the homeowner didn’t get off work until 5, that was a couple hours that paper was in the weather. Delivering it into the mail door kept it dry.

      • Mail slots (or letterboxes as they’re known over here) are a feature of pretty much all homes (and many businesses). They’re big enough to accept letters and smaller parcels and it’s very handy to not have to go outside for your mail.

        We also used to have home deliveries of milk but it’s mostly been superceded by people buying milk in larger containers from supermarkets these days. The usual place for it to be left would have been the door-step (although some people, like my grandparents, would have a special box or metal cage fitted outside the house where it could be left in slightly more secure fashion).
        Milk left on doorsteps would sometimes attract birds who would peck through the foil bottle-tops to get at the content. I also once watched with great amusement, many years ago, one of our cats – in concert with our neighbours cat – tapping at the bottles of milk on the steps of a house across the street with their paws. Eventually they toppled one over so it rolled down the steps and smashed, whereupon they immediately lapped up the creamy contents from the floor! I even saw them on the back of the milk-float one day as though undertaking some sort of sophisticated feline dairy robbery. :D

    • Thank you for mentioning this 👆🏽.

      I immigrated to the USA from the British West Indies in 1986. To this day most Americans are surprised that I don’t sound like a poorly educated Rastafarian and that I never smoked canabis.

  7. Roger Meade says:

    We have a fairly unique situation here for mail delivery. Our big old house in an old neighborhood sits on a lot that extends from one street where our address is listed, to the next that our driveway is accessed from. In the winter the daily snowplow keeps access to the yard and walkway impossible on the official address side. So our mailbox is on the back of the house on the other street, where we keep the driveway clear of snow. Now, how the USPS deals with this I am not sure. Probably some fancy shuffling when setting the mail bag up for delivery. The problem is with UPS and FedEx. They seem to have a constantly changing cast of delivery people. In the summer, no problem, they make the long walk up from our front street, but in the winter, if they are new to the route they are often baffled as to how to make the delivery. Probably makes for some interesting calls back to the office for advice.

    • That is challenging to be sure. I’ve seen a few odd situations where on a corner house the front door was on one street, the driveway was on another, and the mailbox was by the driveway. Not as bad as your situation but still complicated for the USPS.

      • Andy Umbo says:

        Roger, knowing what I know about my mailman and his “subs” for when he’s off, they take a very professional view of their knowledge about a route. I have no doubt that the knowledge about what to do at your house is known by those at your local.

        What’s weird here, is how badly UPS is at delivering anything anymore. Ever since their strike in 1997, whoever they’ve been hiring have NOT been the same service that was available before the strike. They’ll leave your packages on the street in front of a place, even tho the lobby is open, they won’t even try the door! I do a lot of mailing and since somewhere in the mid 2000’s, UPS has gotten so expensive and so errant in their ways; that when I talk to people who receive packages, they always tell me USPS and FedEx is fine, but don’t send anything UPS, it’ll get mis-delivered or left out in a steal-able area! I’ve even gotten packages from B&H Photo via DHL to my post office, and delivered by my mailman, but rarely UPS direct.

  8. I think it’s brilliant. Instead of driving all over the area, the mail carrier has just one stop to make, and more efficiently deliver mail. It reminds me of the centralised “post office” boxes I have seen in smaller towns.

    In my area, mail is delivered to a smaller collection of lock boxes.

    I like the black and white tones in the image. I wish I had had the opportunity to shoot Kodak Panatomic-X back when I was into film but it was discontinued the year I bought my first film camera.

    • I’m sure the mail carriers love this! So much more efficient. For them. Not for me!

      This image does have that classic Kodak b/w look. I have one more roll and then it’s done.

      • Each street block of townhouses has a centralised mailbox that is easily accessed by a short walk. Mine is directly across the street from my townhouse. The mailbox has been the test subject for many photo related projects. 🤪

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